Nigeria linchpin Al Farouq proud of D'Tigers sustained success
ORLANDO (USA) - Nigeria's Al-Farouq Aminu takes enormous pride in the knowledge that he has played a significant role in bringing a winning culture to the national team.
Al-Farouq experienced the thrill of qualifying for the Olympics in 2012 and then playing at the London Games. He also celebrated a FIBA AfroBasket 2015 title triumph. Most recently, he played for Nigeria at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China and helped his country qualify for a third straight Olympics.
"I feel really honored (to have been a part of it)," he said. "I remember one of my friends saying to me: Thank you for what you did; you played for the national team in the prime of your career; some guys played when they were almost out of the league, or out of the league."
"I SHIFTED ONE OF MY MAIN GOALS TO WANTING NIGERIAN BASKETBALL TO BE HELD IN A GOOD LIGHT FOR A LONGER TIME, TO HAVE THAT LONGEVITY... THAT GOAL IS BEING ACCOMPLISHED."
"I've given quality years to the national team. I've also had a purpose," Aminu explained.
"My goal was obviously to win but with the situations we had, it would be tough to medal (at the World Cup) the way we wanted to, and while that's what we try to do every time, sometimes you have to be realistic.
"I shifted one of my main goals to wanting Nigerian basketball to be held in a good light for a longer time, to having that longevity, and I'm really proud of that. I feel like that goal is being accomplished."
Al-Farouq says he and his Nigeria teammates can do more. They can help bring the top youth players into the national team program.
"There are some other things we can do for our youth teams," he said. "A lot of our guys played for the US youth teams, but I want them to see this as an opportunity as well, to be proud to play for the (Nigeria) national team."
Al-Farouq and Ike Diogu are two of Nigeria's all-time greats
Al-Farouq says the recent announcement that Golden State Warriors Associate Head Coach Mike Brown will coach D'Tigers at the Olympics is a sign that Nigerian basketball is moving in the right direction.
"When I first joined the national team, I felt like people didn't take it seriously, or whatever the case may have been," he said.
"To see it at a place where it is now, with guys wanting to play for it in the prime of their careers, and coaches wanting to coach, seeing it as an opportunity - I feel what we've been able to do the last couple of years, bringing it to a light where we're playing every year and always qualifying for events, that's taken Nigerian basketball, and African basketball overall, to a new place.
"I'm super excited (about Brown). Obviously he's coached at the highest level. He's going to bring a lot of work ethic and experience to our game and it's also going to be good for our young guys, too, guys that play overseas, with the credibility Brown brings."
"I JUST APPRECIATE THAT GUYS ARE SAYING THEY WANT TO PLAY BECAUSE A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, IT WASN'T EVEN CLOSE TO THAT CASE."
Al-Farouq helped Nigeria finish as the highest placed African team at the World Cup last summer in China, which qualified D'Tigers for the Olympics in Japan.
"It's always a pleasure playing for my national team and I take a lot of pride in it."
He also likes the idea that high-profile players like Jahlil Okafor have put their hand up and expressed the desire to play for Nigeria at the Olympics, which have now been postponed to 2021 due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's kind of weird because NBA players don't always translate great to the overseas game but they do bring notoriety and obviously they are very talented players," Al-Farouq said.
"I don't necessarily know if everything will work out as smoothly as we want but I just appreciate that guys are saying they want to play because a couple of years ago, it wasn't even close to that case. They would not have declared this early. For him to say, 'Yes, I want to play,' that’s super cool."